8/31/10

Excerpt: Stéphanie Hochet's Combat de l’amour et de la faim

We live in an ever-growing multi-cultural world. 


Every country is a microcosmos of culture, comprising literature, music, culinary traditions, etc..


Sure, this was always the case. Since the dawn of 'nations' or 'empires', every region cultivated its own culture. The totality of this human endeavor is what sociologists and anthropologists insist on calling 'civilization'. 


But in today's world, heavily characterized by globalization and fast-communication, most of the artists who 'make it' in a given constituency, never make it outside the realms of recognition of their fellow cultural brethren; the struggle to break through the barriers of one's immediate surroundings is even greater today than it ever was.


Using the internet (Social networks, web2 ) as a platform for this desired act of transgression can help be effective in accomplishing the mission. But this is only a partial succcess, echoing Andy Warhol's 1968 prophecy that "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.


To make it through you need to be able to 'speak the language of the other'. Musicians and film makers can achieve this by earning a new crowd outside their country of origin; Writers do it by getting translated..


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Stéphanie Hochet is a 36 year old French writer who has been publishing since the age of 26. She's also a Facebook friend :)

Hochet's published six novels so far. The last three of which were released in the reputable Publishing house, Librairie Arthème Fayard


Her seventh, La distribution des lumières (The distribution of lights) is due to be released this October by Flammarion, a French publishing house no less distinguished.. 


The themes of her novels are quite diverse and almost evolve around personages from the extremities of everyday life: a 15 year old who discovers he has brain cancer in Je ne connais pas ma force (I don't know my own Power), an Italian translator who flees Berlusconi's regime to France in La Distribution,

Her last novel, Combat de l’amour et de la faim ('The struggles of love and hunger'), won the prestigious Prix Lilas 2009, reserved for outstanding literature written by women, as well as the praises of fellow francophone writer, Amélie Nothomb, whose novels Fear and Trembling and The Life of Hunger have gained worldwide success and recognition (Nothomb keeps publishing novels at a rate of almost more than 1 each year - she's published almost 30 so far. Why do successful authors insist on feeding their devout lectors with so many titles to devour?!)


[Let it be said in double brackets that this somewhat annoying tendency 'famous' and well-to-do authors have of publishing novels at a pace of one or more a year is, at most times, both degrading to their oeuvre - if they have one, indeed - and to their readers. This tendency seems to have invaded 'high' literature in 1st world countries like the United States and France (England seems to have remained untouched, as of yet) for obvious commercial reasons and readers are now infested with swarms of novels to buy and read. It is the Excerpt's opinion that Readers should long for their favorite authors' word-of-mouth and not be confronted by it whither they go].

Having said that and got that rant out of the way, let us return to the original subject of this post: Stéphanie Hochet's last novel.


None of Stéphanie's novels were translated into English, or, as far as I know, into any other European language, let alone non-European.

Stéphanie's agreed to let the Excerpt Reader read and review an excerpt from her last novel. 

The struggles has all the ingredients of an international best seller, but will it make it beyond the Iron Curtain? Well, that's a different question..


Set in the puritan south of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, it relates the adventures of Marie Shortfellow, a fortune hunter set on surviving while all around him hatred and racism, misery and financial ruin threaten to bring him down along with the rest of all those 'miserable, unfortunate souls'.


Taking the reader through his life's story, from childhood to adolescence and then to manhood, Hochet chronicles the story of one hungry man's animal-like revolt and violence  against injustice. 


The excerpt provided by Stéphanie, relates a reading experience (it is always fun to read about the sensation of reading..) The narrator (is it Marie?) relates his reading from an erotic poem in a very vivid and sensual, graphic yet quite lyrical and poetic narrative.


Confronted by terotic descriptions of a very imaginative nature, the narrator can't help but wonder: "Où l’auteur avait-il puisé une telle métaphore?" ("Where did the author draw such metaphors from?"


'Reality' and fiction slowly intermingle and intertwine as the narrator describes his conquest of a woman named Heather, in a very sensuous and sweeping prose.


The excerpt doesn't reveal a lot of the book's plot. It does give us a very good glimpse of Hochet's style of prose and range of writing which are inarguably rich.


VERDICT: BUY IT (If and when it is translated. And if you read French, do it now).

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